So many people get uptight at the thought of Thanksgiving and the roast Turkey dinner, but if you look at it as just a big chicken it does not seem so formidable. The real key though is to keep it simple, do not be intimidated by all the TV chefs with all the fancy side dishes that you “must do this year”. If you are intent on making one of these “in” dishes, don’t make it for the first time on Thanksgiving. Try it out a few times before,so you have your techniques and time down and you are sure your family thinks it tastes great.
Thanksgiving is more about tradition. What were the favorite dishes your Grandmother and Mother made, and what are your family and friends favorites? Everyone wants the “Norman Rockwell” version of Thanksgiving, but if you look at the painting closely it is a Turkey with one covered side dish, a plate of celery, a plate of pickles, a bowl of fruit, a cranberry jelly mold and gravy. Simple!
For the dinner itself Logistics is the key. Plan out your menu well in advance, making sure that you will be able to cook all the things you are planning with the stove tops, ovens and microwaves you have available. Once your turkey has been cooked it should rest for 15 – 30 minutes to allow the juices to settle in the meat, tenting it with foil will give you 30 minutes to finish all the side dishes.
Now on to the turkey!
Ingredients for Roast Turkey
The first big question here is just how big a bird do you cook? I would think that a rule of thumb would be 1½ to 2 pounds per person. The larger the bird the more meat so as you lighten the turkey raise the amount per person. For the average family of 6 -12 people for dinner, 2#’s per person should work well.
The second question is to stuff or not to stuff? Unstuffed will cook faster, and you have less risk of Salmonella poisoning. If you stuff make very sure that the center of the stuffing is at 165° or higher. If you stuffed it to tightly you may end up with an overdone turkey and under done stuffing. While a stuffed turkey does add flavor and moisture to the stuffing, when in doubt go with the stove top stuffing and leave it out of the bird.
- Whole turkey size determined by the number of people it is going to serve.
- ¼ canola or neutral oil
- salt and pepper
- 6-8 stalks of celery
- 1-2 roughly chopped onion
- 2-3 roughly chopped carrots
- 1+ cup stock or white wine
- A good baster or heavy duty large spoon.
- Poultry twine
Directions for Roast Turkey
Thaw the turkey, again the size determines how long this will take. Err on the side of caution and allow 12-24 hours longer than stated to be safe, there are a number of web sites that will give estimates.
Leave the turkey in its original packaging until just before you are ready to cook. When you are ready, remove from the packaging take the giblets pack out ( these will be used for the gravy), rinse the bird in cold water and pat dry. Tuck the wings in and with the twine lightly bind the leg ends together to help close the bird’s cavity. You can, if not stuffing the bird, add salt and pepper, the celery tops and a quatered onion into the cavity.
Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan ( if you don’t have a rack use the carrots whole and the celery as a rack at the bottom of the pan).
Preheat the oven to 325°.
With a brush, coat the whole bird with the oil and then lightly salt and liberally pepper the outside and inside of the bird. Place the bird breast side up on the rack and spread the onion, carrot and celery on the bottom of the pan, add enough stock or wine to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Place into the lower third of the preheated oven.
Check the bottom of the pan about every 30-45 minutes, keeping the bottom of the pan moist( if it looks dry add a little more stock or wine) so the juices do not burn, while checking baste the bird with the juices to keep it moist.
When the time is about 2/3 done, keep and eye on the bird , if it begins to brown too much cover loosely with a tent of foil.
Once the turkey reaches it’s final temperature remove to a cutting board and cover tightly with foil to rest for 30 minutes.
The juices left in the pan should be Strained and added to the gravy you make with the giblets( see turkey gravy).
Approximate cooking times for Thawed Turkey
For the best advice go to the Butterball web site to find times for all the various turkey products.
|4½-7 lbs.||2-2½ hrs.||2¼-2¾ hrs.|
|7-9 lbs.||2½-3 hrs.||2¾-4½ hrs.|
|9-18 lbs.||3-3½ hrs.||3¾-4½ hrs.|
|18-22 lbs.||3½-4 hrs.||4½-5 hrs.|
|22-24 lbs.||4-4½ hrs.||5-5½ hrs.|
|24-30 lbs.||4½-5 hrs.||5½-6¼ hrs.|
Cooking times are approximate, determine when the turkey is done by temperature, and whatever you do do not trust the pop up thermometer in the breast they are unreliable. The Turkey is done when the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone is 180º and the breast is 165º. If stuffed make sure the center of the stuffing is 165º or more.
To Carve at the table or Not to Carve.
Here we have another or the Great Thanksgiving conundrums, do you carve at the table or not? My thoughts are if you are a master carver and want to show off then by all means do it at the table. For everyone one else it is far easier to do it in the kitchen and quite frankly I disagree with the time honored way of slicing the breast off the bird.
To carve a Turkey is actually quite a simple task, again just think of it as a “big” chicken. Remove the wings at the joint nearest the bird then separate the three pieces at the joints of the wings. Now slice down between the thigh and the bird through that joint remove the thigh and drum stick and then slice between the thigh and drumstick. I leave the drumstick whole but slice the meat away from the bone on the thigh.
Now carefully slice across the top of the bird between both breast pieces and with you knife flat against the ribs slowly slice the whole breast off the bird place on the cutting board a slice thinly perpendicular to the breast against the grain. You will end up more slices of white meat the a juicier and moister.
Want to practice, try a few baked chicken before Thanksgiving to get the hang of it!
Here are a few items to help make this recipe:
I get the giblets, gravy and lots of leftovers, it’s a week of heaven- too bad we don’t cook a 100 pound turkey it could last a month!